This week there’s a trio of favourite’s back to prove they
can still make waves in the music charts.
A Pet Shop Boys reissue would never fail to excite fans but throw in
some unreleased demos and you would be foolish not to expect a feeding
As Neil Tennant has already expressed, buying the re-releases of their
first six albums would be pretty pointless if you already did so when
they reissued them in 2001. Instead, focus on Nightlife, Release and
Fundamental, which come with copious bonus tracks.
The intriguing One Way Street demo – originally written for Bananarama,
who turned it down – is catchy, and amusingly was inspired by
philosopher Walter Benjamin’s book of the same name which Tennant admits
to never actually reading.
Also on Fundamental is The Performance Of My Life. Written for Shirley
Bassey’s 2009 album The Performance, Tennant and Lowe also recorded
their own version which offers the song a new found emotional depth.
Other demos and unreleased tracks include Ring Road, Little Black Dress’
Radiophonic and several more. So, if in doubt, take Tennant’s advice;
ignore the remasters and aim for the newer (old) ones.
(Review By Joe Nerssessian)
ALICE COOPER – PARANORMAL
Almost 30 years after tantalising the tastebuds of mainstream metal with
Poison, Alice Cooper shows no signs of slowing down in Paranormal.
While he has softened his signature snarl, the 69-year-old still
delivers rip-roaring tracks that stay true to both his anarchic and
fun-loving sides as he pulls together half a century of influences.
Kicking off with an operatic overture in the title track, we are updated
on Alice’s feelings about everything from falling in love when you
“can’t get up”, to the lies of religion (Dead Flies), to his Cadillac
(Dynamite Road). With bonus tracks, including Genuine American Girl,
freshly recorded with the 1970s band, Paranormal is an ode to the Alice
Cooper legacy, offering something for the diehard fan and the first-time
listener. Or, as he described the record himself: “My definition of
paranormal is something other than normal … you could say my whole
career has been that.”
(Review by Francesca Gosling)
ARCADE FIRE – EVERYTHING NOW
Arcade Fire have always been fans of cryptic and creative album
releases. With Everything Now, however, they have gone a step further
than the interactive videos and guerrilla art of previous years:
transforming into sycophantic corporate lackeys for Everything Now Corp,
a capitalist behemoth for which culture is nothing and “content” is
Yet in doing so, the band’s fifth studio album runs a gamut of styles
and sounds without settling on one, or on anything that brought them
global critical acclaim. Progress is vital for any artist, but the first
15 minutes run closer to Abba and Jungle in their disco beats, and later
tracks swing between two-tone ska, ’80s hair rock and humdrum easy
These homages to other genres are perfectly rendered, and were hinted at
on 2013’s Reflektor, but again the stand-out tracks are those which do
not overly commit to any sound other than their own. It is only the
synth-pop of Creature Comforts, Electric Blue and We Don’t Deserve Love
which embodies anything that feels like the band’s natural, comfortable
progression, and not simply a derivative of something else. As a
statement on the homogenisation of music under the crushing force of
corporatism it is powerful but, with Everything Now, Arcade Fire risk
losing themselves to the cause.
(Review by Alastair Reid)
THE FALL – NEW ACTS EMERGE
As he ages, Mark E Smith’s rants might sound to the untrained ear like
the Wealdstone Raider put to post-punk – nonetheless the rabid energy
remains unchanged and New Facts Emerge is certainly a relentless ride.
Second and third tracks Fol De Rol and Brillo De Facto find Smith and
the band as stinging and hefty as they have ever been, and, while there
are some dips – the meandering 8 minutes 44 seconds of Couples v Jobless
Mid 30s being something of a slog by the end – New Facts Emerge feels as
consistent as it is possible for a Fall album to be nowadays.
For fans who have stuck with the band through more than 100 LPs, EPs and
live albums, there remains some reward for the patience. Their latest –
like last two studio albums Re-Mit and Sub-Lingual Tablet – offers
glimmers of the band in their fearsome prime but maintains their
penchant for surprises.
(Review by Stephen Jones)
EXTRA NOTE: One bizarre footnote that should be addressed is the
unfortunately titled Victoria Train Station Massacre. The band insists
the track was recorded and sent off for pressing “long before” the
bombing at Manchester Arena, which adjoins the station. It is not,
however, the first time that Smith has eerily “predicted” a tragic event
– this reviewer recommends googling the story behind Disney’s Dream
Debased from The Weird And Frightening World Of The Fall if you want to
feel seriously freaked out.
ARTHUR ALEXANDER – ARTHUR ALEXANDER
Proof that talent is sadly no guarantee of success, Arthur Alexander
wrote and performed songs that would inspire covers from icons including
the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, yet spent the later years
of his life working as an anonymous bus driver. For those in the know,
however, his brief career provides a treasure trove of lost classics.
This 1972 release, reissued with six bonus tracks, including two that
were previously unreleased, is a light-footed soul record, characterised
by funky bass lines and electric piano. Songs such as I’m Coming Home
and Down The Backroads have a laid-back, sun- dappled charm, while
Burning Love would, in typical fashion, go on to be a major hit for
Elvis. Worth revisiting.
(Review by James Robinson)